It’s Just Not That Complicated–A Story

Background Passage: II Kings 5:1-15

The driver guided the gilded chariot
to the side of the valley road.
Dust from the day’s drive dulled its luster.
The Captain hopped off the back of the chariot.
Pressed his balled fists into the
small of his aching back.
Stretched the kinks from
his muscled frame.

He pulled the headpiece gingerly from his brow,
snapped his fingers.
Within seconds a servant boy
handed him a goblet of water.
Cool.
Fresh.
Soothing his parched tongue.
Slaking his deep thirst.

His caravan passed by,
continuing his journey.
Wagons bearing a king’s ransom.
Ingot and coin.
Silver and gold.
Carts hauling a king’s clothes.
Finest silk.
Softest fabric.
Gifts to the King of Israel
and his prophet.
The one his wife’s servant called
“The Healer.”

The Captain.
An imposing figure…
from a distance.
A head taller than those around him.
Shoulders broad.
Hips narrow.
Legs and arms
muscular and
mighty.
Tall in stature.
Regal in bearing.
Accustomed to the mantle of command.
Adorned with the tributes of his master…
Ben-Hadad II.
King of Aram.

An imposing figure, indeed…
until closer inspection.

His once handsome face
hidden beneath a soiled cloth.
Stained by open sores and
Ssall, weeping tumors which
consumed the skin around
his eyes and nose.
Red blemishes
circled his neck.
Gray splotches
covered his hands and arms.
Disfigured.
Discolored.

Naaman.
The Captain.
Greatest of Aram’s warriors.
Battlefield survivor.
A soldier’s soldier.
A prominent man
in search of
an improbable cure to
a dreaded disease.
A leper.

Naaman watched his entourage pass.
His men avoided looking his direction.
Partially in deference.
Partially in disgust.
Naaman noticed the slight.
He always noticed.
He roughly stroked his cheek,
angry at sensing no pain, no feeling
from the dying flesh.
More dead than alive.

An unknown prophet
his last ray of hope.
This trip a simple favor from the king
to his most trusted general.
Healing was a long shot both men willingly grasped.

Naaman gathered his strength again.
Exhaled a deep breath.
Climbed onto his chariot.
Nodded to his driver.
Followed the caravan toward the city of Samaria,
high on the distant hill.

He shook his head in weary disbelief.
He traveled this far on the word of a slave-child and
her blind trust in a holy man of Israel.

*

Naaman walked out the front door of what passed
for the king’s palace in Samaria.
Repulsed and revolted by the cowardice
he had witnessed.
He judged the Hebrew king.
A tattered bundle of nerves.
A sniveling sovereign.
A weak and whimpering ruler.

Entirely too intent upon keeping the leper at a distance,
the disdainful monarch summarily
dismissed the general from Aram.
Escaped personal accountability by
sending Naaman to
Elisha,
Israel’s prophet,
rather than ordering the prophet to the palace.
Unthinkable.

With each step along the path to Elisha’s house
Naaman grew angrier.
”What am I doing here?”
he muttered to himself.
“A fool’s errand.”

If the Israelite king’s palace was unimpressive,
the prophet’s home was little more than a hovel.
Naaman approached the door.
Hopelessness in his heart.
Contempt on his countenance.
A servant stepped onto the porch,
closing the rough-hewn door behind him.
Bowed respectfully at Naaman’s feet.

“My master bids you welcome and knows why you are here.
I tell you on his behalf to go to the Jordan River.
Dip yourself seven times into its waters.
When you rise up from the water the seventh time,
your flesh will be restored.
You will be cleansed.”

As quickly as he appeared,
the servant re-entered the home.
Closing the door in the Captain’s face.

Naaman stood stone-still in shock.
Mouth agape.
A man used to getting his way.
Now being sent along his way.
Accustomed to deference,
not dismissal.

Naaman.
Shouted indignantly at the prophet inside.
Rapped loudly at the locked door
with the hilt of his sword.
“I’ve traveled a great distance to see you.
Come outside and face me.”
Elisha did not come.
Naaman left in anger to return to his home.

Thoughts
troubled and
tumultuous.

“Not what I expected.”
“Did not stand before me and call upon his God.”
“No wave of his staff.”
“No potions.”
“No pronouncements.”
“No pretending
to do something…
anything!”

He shouted in anguish at the top of his voice,
staring at the heavens.
“Go bathe in the Jordan…Really?”
“A puny prophet!”
“An insignificant river.”
“An inconsequential country.”

“Superior rivers near Damascus…
Clearer.
Purer.
Could I not simply wash in them?
Why must I travel this far?”

He rode in silence aboard his chariot.
Returning home without a cure.
Fury slowly subsiding
into somber submission.
Resigned to his fate.

After moments of uncomfortable silence
his trusted chariot driver spoke in a meek voice,
never taking his eyes off the road ahead.

“My Captain,”
he hesitated before screwing up his courage to speak,
“if the prophet told you to do some great thing,
would you not do it?
It seems such a simple thing…
‘Wash and be cleansed.’
Is it not worth a try?”

A servant’s simplicity.

Naaman stared at the back of his driver’s head.
Then, into the distance.
Trying to find fault with his servant’s reasoning.
When he could not,
his anger evaporated.
Breathed deeply.
Exhaled slowly.
Clapped his hand upon the driver’s shoulder,
“Turn us around.
Take me to the Jordan.”

*

Naaman left the caravan a distance away,
taking only three servants with him.
Stood on the muddy bank of the Jordan.
Ankle deep in its languid flow.
Little more than 20-feet wide.
Slowly moving to the south.
A lazy current of muddy water reflecting
a greenish tint from the brush
along its slippery banks.

He stripped himself of his shirt and tunic.
Removed the soiled cloth covering his face and neck.
Hesitant.
Halting.
He waded into the water past
his hips to his chest.
With a quick glance at his servants
who had turned away to give him privacy,
Naaman submerged beneath the water…
Once.
Twice.
Six times.
Stared each time he emerged from the tepid stream
at his reflection in its wavy surface.
No change.
No transformation.

He took another breath.
Bent his knees.
Sank into the river a seventh time.
He floated beneath the surface.
Stared up through the murky water at the heavens,
filled once more with despair.

In the muddled quietness,
disturbed only by the rush of blood pulsing in his head,
he thought to himself.
“Just sink.
Open your mouth.
Drown.”
He exhaled and waited to die.
Self-preservation and aching lungs
forced him to the surface.

Water dripped from his hair.
Ran into his mouth,
Sputtering as he gasped for air,
the Captain offered a quick prayer
to a God he did not know.
Almost too afraid,
he willed his eyes open.
Looked again upon his image in the water…

Tears mingled with the
trickle of water
running down unspoiled cheeks.

The man with the smooth skin of a child
Splashed and danced in the muddy waters like a child at play.

Cleansed.
Whole.
Transformed.

With a shout that echoed through the hills of Samaria,
Naaman lifted his unblemished hands and arms to the sky…

“Now, I know there is no God in all the world
except in Israel.”

*

Naaman’s story.
An act of God leads to salvation.
Yet, he didn’t go down easily.

Look between the lines.
Arrogant by accomplishment.
Prideful of position.
Naaman almost missed out on
physical and spiritual cleansing.
We’re not so different from the
leprous warrior.

Why is it so hard for us to accept the simplicity of God’s grace?
“Believe.”
“Be saved.”
So easy to hear,
yet too hard to believe.

Whether grace unto salvation or
grace toward our need,
we pound on the Father’s door
demanding an audience.
He sends
his servant…
Pastor.
Friend.
A word of scripture.

They tell us,
“Why do you make this so hard.”
“Go wash…”
A simple act of obedience.

We fume!
He didn’t present himself to us personally.
We fuss!
He offered us nothing spectacular.
No whisper of a magic word.
No wave of a magic wand.
We demand something…anything
different than…
“Go wash.”

Far too simple for our tastes.
Not at all what we expected.

Such cleansing ought to be demanding.
A requirement through which
we can prove ourselves worthy
of His grace.

Thank God.
Naaman learned a lesson we all must learn.
God’s grace is not that complicated.
It’s a gift.

Naaman teaches one more thing.
There is no other river into which we can
plunge that offers us cleansing.
Not the rivers of our home.
Not the rivers of our family.
Not the river of our deeds.
No other river.
No other Lord.

“There is no other name under heaven given to men
by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

One last lesson.
Blessed is the one who has someone in life,
Like the chariot driver,
willing to challenge his or her stubbornness…
Someone to remind us of our illogical pride
that prevents simple obedience to God’s will.

“If He asked you to do some great thing,
would you not do it?
It seems such a simple thing.”
Go wash.”

You see.
It’s not that complicated.
The cleansing power of Jesus Christ
washes away…
Sin.
Self-importance
Smugness.
Stubbornness.
Everything that stands in the way of receiving
His grace.

Because it’s so simple,
we stare at the heavens through murky water.
Falling to its depths.
Waiting to drown.
until self-preservation pulls us to the surface.

With tentative eyes,
we stare at our own reflection…
our now unspoiled condition.
Cleansed.
Whole.
Transformed.
Shouting to the world in absolute joy…

“Now, I know there is no other God.”

Trust.
Believe.
Act.
It’s just not that complicated.

*

Publisher’s Note: You’ll find stories similar to this in each of the author’s books, Put Away Childish Things and The Chase: Our Passionate Pursuit of Life Worth Living available from Xulon Press, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or most online bookstores. You may subscribe to the author’s blog by entering your email in the subscription block on the right side of the page at www.drkirklewis.com.

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